The U.S. will defend its European missile-defense plans against Russia’s objections in the challenger’s capital this week as a State Department delegation attends a conference aimed at disputing the system.
“We believe this exchange will allow the United States in particular to provide in a very public way the reasons that the missile defenses that the United States is developing” aren’t aimed at Russia, Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, said today on a conference call with reporters.
The eight-member U.S. delegation seeks to counter Russia’s opposition to the system, which was embraced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2010, as longtime critic Vladimir Putin prepares to return to the Russian presidency next week. President Barack Obama’s administration has said it will proceed with the project to protect Europe against potential attacks from Iran.
“These talks are fraught with history, and with a lot of baggage on both sides,” Ellen Tauscher, the U.S. special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense, said on the conference call with Creedon from Moscow. “There’s nothing I can imagine that will stop us from making those deployments on time.”
Russia is trying to do so. Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Russia will present what it considers the danger of the planned U.S. missile shield in Europe through a computer simulation.
Poland, Romania, Turkey
The computer modeling will show the threat Russia’s nuclear deterrent faces, including to its sites in Poland, Romania and Turkey, Antonov said in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the government’s official newspaper.
“We’ve never shown visual information of this kind to anyone,” Antonov told the newspaper. Russia’s aerospace defense forces will make two presentations to dispel doubts about the potency of the country’s arsenal, he said.
The two-day Russian Defense Ministry event will feature representatives of more than 50 countries, including the U.S. and major European and Asian powers. The NATO delegation will be led by Alexander Vershbow, the alliance’s deputy secretary general, Antonov said.
Russia has said the U.S.-led plan may provoke a new arms race and upset a strategic balance in the region. President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the military last November to prepare to “destroy” the system’s command capability and threatened to station strike missiles on its southern and western flanks to counter the shield.
The conference will serve as a warning ahead of NATO’s summit next month in Chicago, “forcing our colleagues to rethink the consequences” of new steps such as measures to further integrate missile defense between alliance members, Antonov said.
White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is scheduled to visit Russia for meetings tomorrow and May 4 with senior Russian officials, the Obama administration said in a statement.
The meetings will cover “key issues” in relations between the U.S. and Russia, Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement today.
Russian officials have demanded the U.S. provide legal assurances, while the U.S. has said it wouldn’t agree to any limits on its planned system and could provide only “political statements” that the plans aren’t intended to weaken Russia’s strategic deterrence.
“We continue to seek solutions to address” the Russian concerns, Creedon said. “But we continue to believe the best way to address them is through cooperation and not confrontation.”
Obama and other U.S. officials have made clear they don’t expect to resolve the dispute this year, considering the political sensitivity of the topic during election seasons in both countries.
Microphones recorded Obama in March asking Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for patience on missile defense negotiations until after the November election and saying he’d have “more flexibility” afterwards.
The comment became an issue in the U.S. election campaign, with Republican candidate Mitt Romney accusing Obama of having a hidden agenda for his second term.